Helping a cat endure a car trip
Q: I seem to be facing a move from Long Island to southern North Carolina. I am at a loss as to how to transport my 14-year-old Maine coon cat. We are both too old to drive 10 hours straight through, and a midway stop with my buddy seems impossible. Any ideas? --Phil Wehrheim, Huntington
A: Cats travel a lot better than we might think. Cats have traveled with humans on sailing ships, covered wagons and on most every other means of transportation all over the globe. So your cat can easily travel with you from New York to North Carolina. One thing you have to accept is that most cats are miserable and unhappy while they are traveling. There is not much you can do about this except cater to their biological needs.
I have traveled with cats on long road trips many times, and this is how I do it. First, I get a rabbit or guinea pig cage about 26 to 28 inches long that has a wire top and a deep plastic bottom. I line it with a wee-wee pad and then a couple of inches of cat litter. I then put the cat in and cover the cage half way with a blanket so the cat has some amount of security. I put it in the backseat of the car or on the floor of the car if there is room. In the past, I tried putting a small litter box in the traveling cage with the cat and covered the rest of the bottom with a towel, but I noticed that invariably the cat curls up in the litter box the whole trip so I decided to just make the whole bottom of the cage a litter box for the cat to travel in. I always use a dust-free pelleted type of cat litter, such as Yesterday's News.
There is no point in putting any food or water in the cage with the cat if you are going to be with it in the car. The cat will just be miserable, anyway, and will not want to eat, and the food and water will spill all over. When you make a pit stop, you can offer the cat food and water. If he chooses to partake, fine. If not, he will have the opportunity at the next stop.
Because the cage is lined with the litter, the cat will not feel inhibited if nature calls while you are traveling. That removes one of the biggest discomfort situations for cats in transit.
If you stop at a pet-friendly hotel for the night, just take the wire top off the cage and leave the plastic base on the floor of the hotel room. The cat can use that as a litter box during your stay in the room.
If you have the time to prepare your cat for the trip, put him in the cage every day and go for a short ride in the car so the unknown becomes known.
Animals bounce back quickly from situations like this, so just grit your teeth and move the cat in as comfortable a manner as possible. When it's over, it's over.
Q: I read that we are going to have a big surge of cicadas this summer. My golden Lab loves to eat them and goes out of her way for them. She will even jump up, grab them off low-hanging branches and then gulp them down whole. There have not been very many for her to catch in the past few years, but if we do have a surge this year and she eats a great many, could she get sick? --Linda Silverman, Great Neck
A: Most every wild animal and bird will eat cicadas when they are available. They are a good source of protein, as are all insects. However, they do have a very hard and indigestible shell. The wings are not digestible, either. Most wild animals will bite off the wings first, unlike your Lab who you say swallows them whole. The exoskeleton of a cicada is made of the same material as a crab or lobster shell, so eating it is the same as swallowing a crab down whole. The issue here is one of volume. A few cicadas here and there are not harmful to your dog, but if she ate a whole lot of them, all the indigestible parts could cause an issue.
However, all dogs are different in this respect, and I have had young dogs that ate sheet rock, video cassettes and other such items with no ill effects.
So this is a management issue. Keep a jar of dog treats in a secure can on your patio that is out of her reach. When you see her cicada hunting, just shake the can and call her to you for a treat to distract her from gorging herself should the opportunity present itself.
Q: We were fishing in one of the lakes upstate last weekend, and we saw some toad egg strings draped over some submerged branches. So we brought back a few strings of them and hatched the eggs in one of our home aquariums. It seems we have several hundred little tadpoles. If we transfer the tadpoles to our backyard fish pond and they grow up into baby toads, will we be able to populate our neighborhood with toads? --George Martin, West Hempstead
A: If your neighborhood was a toad-friendly place, toads would be living there now. Suburban habitats just are not conducive to toads and other native amphibians. If you put those tadpoles into your backyard pond, they would grow up into toads and will then leave the safety of the pond to seek their fortune only to get chopped up by lawn mowers or shrivel up and die when their delicate skin comes into contact with the lawn fertilizers and other poisons on lawns. So the best thing you could do for these tadpoles is to take them back to the lake where you found the eggs. They have a very poor future anywhere else. They really need a habitat undisturbed by humans, and that is becoming harder and harder for them to find.